Accelerating the development of a malaria vaccine for Africa


Start date: 1 January, 2018 End date: 31 December, 2023 Project type: Research projects in countries with extended development cooperation (earlier Window 1) Project code: 17-02-KU Countries: Ghana Thematic areas: Health, Lead institution: University of Copenhagen (UCPH), Denmark Partner institutions: University of Ghana (UG), Ghana Project website: go to website (the site might be inactive) Project coordinator: Lars Hviid Total grant: 9,998,894 DKK

Project summary

Malaria remains an internationally leading cause of ill health and poverty. There is no efficacious vaccine available, and recent progress in malaria control is jeopardized by drug resistance, failing insecticides, and inadequate health infrastructures in affected areas. New vaccines designed to protect residents in malaria-endemic areas would be an extremely costeffective tool to improve this situation.

We propose a 5-year project with the objective of providing malaria vaccines designed specifically for Africa; a high international priority. Our project is based on innovative strategies and understudied antigens, and is largely built on evidence obtained by the applicants that has already led to a pioneering vaccine against placental malaria, which is currently in clinical trials in Africa. The applicants and their institutions have strong track records in malaria research and research-based education.

The project design is based on our decades-long experience with collaborative research and capacity building in Ghana and elsewhere in Africa. It involves novel biotechnologies that will be transferred to the partner in Ghana as an importanet element. The project includes a funded postdoc position for a young Ghanaian scientist who received her PhD-training in our previous collaboration. It furthermore incorporates two funded PhD positions in Ghana.
This way, the project is fully aligned with the strategy recently adopted by University of Ghana to increase the competitiveness of the University in malaria research and education.

It furthermore underpins the engagement of participating University of Copenhagen scientists in the ongoing institutional research capacity strengthening at University of Ghana as part of the Building Stronger Universities initiative.

At the end of the project, we expect to have forwarded several novel malaria vaccine candidates to clinical trial stage. In the process, we will have markedly strengthened the capacity for international level malaria research at University of Ghana, and initiated new South-South collaborations.


Midterm report
The long-term objective of the MAVARECA (Malaria Vaccine Research and Capacity building)-II are to facilitate the development of vaccines protecting against severe and fatal Plasmodium falciparum malaria, and designed specifically to be suitable for long-term clinical
protection of permanent residents in malaria-endemic areas. The project is designed to achieve this objective through collaborative research and capacity building. Our approach is to produce novel insights regarding key molecular targets of naturally acquired protective immunity and the immune effector functions operating on these targets, while concomitantly enhancing the capacity for internationally competitive malaria research at University of Ghana.
The project expires by the end of 2023, and has by now delivered essentially all the anticipated outputs: Two PhD programs have been completed (theses submitted and under evaluation) as has a complementary postdoc program. These research activities have already resulted in several high-impact publications, and the findings have been reported at national, regional, and international meetings, and presented at the dedicated project web site. A comprehensive repository of biological samples and clinical data has been collected, and a substantial collection of recombinant antigens and human monoclonal antibodies has been generated. Finally, the scientific and financial reporting has been delivered on time.

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